Fumiko Hayashida: The Woman Behind the Symbol

In February 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the relocation of 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast in order to incarcerate them in isolated and desolate concentration camps. The government’s justification was to protect the country against espionage and sabotage by Japanese Americans. Those rounded up included everyone who had at least 1/16th of Japanese heritage – from newborn babies, young children and orphans, to the elderly and the infirm. They were interned between 1942-1945 in ten states from Idaho to Arkansas.

Exclusion Order No. 1, authorizing the first relocation, targeted the Japanese Americans living on Bainbridge Island, Washington. One of them was 31 year-old Fumiko Hayashida, a pregnant mother of two. She was one of 227 members of her community who, dressed in their best clothes, assembled at the Eagledale ferry landing on March 30th, 1942. As they waited to be taken off the Island by armed military escorts, Fumiko, holding her 13 month-old daughter Natalie Kayo, was photographed by a Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer. The photograph has since become a lasting iconic symbol of the internment experience.

Produced by Stourwater Pictures in association with the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC).

Film festivals: SF Int’l Asian American, D.C. Asian Pacific American, Tacoma, Gig Harbor and Port Townsend

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